Review: ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat with HomeKit

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The ecobee3 thermostat, one of the first HomeKit enabled smart thermostats, packages intelligent design in a sleek, easy to install package.

ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat
ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat

Hardware
Prior to installing the ecobee3, our 12 year old home had a digital thermostat that was anything but smart. The thermostat hangs on the wall in a seldom used room on the sunward side of the house, so it was far from accurate when assessing the temperature for most of the rest of the rooms.

After receiving the test unit, I proceeded to install it myself in about 25 minutes. The unit comes with stickers for labeling all of the wires that were on your old thermostat, and installing it requires simply inserting the wires into the lettered slots on the new thermostat base. Two screws hold the unit to the wall, and the kit includes large and small back plates to cover any holes or paint gaps from your existing thermostat. Once screwed into the wall, the display portion of the thermostat snaps into place.

Packaging for the ecobee3. Photo by Gerry Tolbert
Packaging for the ecobee3. Photo by Gerry Tolbert

The remainder of the setup consisted of connecting to the app on my iPhone and the Wi-Fi system in my house, which took less than five minutes. I created an account with ecobee and answered several questions about the location of the thermostat and our temperature preferences. This model interfaces with up to 32 remote sensors for more accurate assessment of average temperature, meaning better efficiency and energy savings. The base model includes a single remote sensor, which paired seamlessly with the thermostat.

Software
The onboard UI utilizes touch controls and simple menus, but allows significant customization. Adjustable profiles automatically control temperature while home, away, and asleep. Depending on your system, the thermostat can also control humidifiers or other accessories and set thresholds for humidity as well as temperature. The unit has a calendar schedule and vacation settings, allowing for more granular scheduled changes in high and low temps.

Finally, there are several alerts for filter changes, maintenance, and low and high temperature or humidity. These alerts can send an email or ping your smartphone, meaning I’ll actually see when it’s time to change the filter on time rather than 2 months later.

The software also links with the local weather database over the Internet to provide realtime feedback on ambient temperature and humidity. These data neatly display alongside indoor temperature and humidity. You can also pull up temperature data for any remote units connected to the thermostat.

Software Interface - Main Unit, iOS, Apple Watch
Software Interface – Main Unit, iOS, Apple Watch

Being HomeKit enabled, the ecobee3 has both an iOS app and an Apple Watch app for controlling temperature. There’s also a web interface. The phone and tablet apps mirror the onboard software, while the watch app simply allows for temperature adjustment. Buttons respond quickly and all settings are accessible from the secure app. Once added to HomeKit, you can even use Siri to adjust the temperature.

Verdict
After three weeks of continuous use, the ecobee3 exceeded all of my expectations. It’s kept our house cool without being too cold, with a more even temperature throughout the whole house. Where our upstairs bedroom was previously warm all day and far into the night, it’s now comfortable right at bedtime and throughout the night. Installation was painless, and the interface and apps make controlling the temperature super easy. We haven’t received an energy bill yet for a savings comparison, but I anticipate significant savings over our older system, and I’ll update this article when I have more info.

This ecobee website allows you to check compatibility with your existing HVAC system. While it was easy to install, the unit may not work as well with older systems, so make sure you examine your existing system or speak with an HVAC professional before you buy.

The only negative I’ve noticed so far has more to do with the layout of our house than with the unit itself. Like most smart thermostats, the ecobee3 uses motion detectors to determine if the house is occupied. If the thermostat resides in an infrequently used location, the accuracy of home and away detection decreases dramatically. The upside is that with Homekit, I can just tell Siri “Set the temperature to 70 degrees,” and the thermostat gets the message. I shut off the automatic tracking and adjustment, but, for folks with a thermostat in a high-traffic location, it shouldn’t be an issue.

All together, solid hardware, nice interface options, and a pleasant gadget that will hopefully save a little money. I’d recommend for anyone, especially if you’re in the iOS ecosystem.

For more info in the ecobee3, check out the website or follow them on Twitter.

Disclaimer: ecobee provided me with a production model for review purposes.

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